JACKSONVILLE – There's talent on the edge in this draft.
It's perhaps not elite talent compared to past years, and analysts will tell you that you won't find perfect prospects among the top edge defenders in the 2021 NFL Draft. But there are potential starters and contributors.
And yes … the position is worth taking in the back half of Round 1.
"When you're looking at edge rushers, it's an interesting group," NFL Network Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "There are some flaws with these guys, but there's also a lot to like."
Many analysts consider Kwity Paye of Michigan the top edge player in the '21 class, with an intriguing group of players projected late in Round 1 or early in Round 2. Among the latter group: Jaelen Phillips of Miami, Jayson Oweh of Penn State; Carlos Basham Jr. of Wake Forest and Gregory Rousseau of Miami.
"You have some guys who are big, talented explosive athletes but they may not have the production," NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks said. "How do you put those guys into the mix? They're talented, but they're not quite developed."
It's considered a relatively deep year for edge, with five more prospects – Joe Tryon of Washington, Patrick Jones II of Pittsburgh, Quincy Roche of Miami, Chris Rumph II of Duke and Hamilcar Rashed Jr. of Oregon State – projected in Rounds 2-4.
"There's a pretty good group of pass rushers after the first round that are intriguing," ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said, adding that he projects Paye late in the first round but no edge rusher in the Top 15. "They all will have their concerns. That's why they're getting to that point. There are a lot of pass rushers you can get in that third or fourth-round early that I have a pretty high grade on.
"There's just nobody to consider that high in terms of the first round, I don't have a defensive player going until 10 and I don't have a defensive lineman going until No. 21."
HANDICAPPING THE JAGUARS
This is another tricky spot to project for the Jaguars entering the draft. The team is expected to run a hybrid defense with a 3-4 base and a lot of 4-3 looks. Players such as Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson – first-round selections in the last two drafts, respectively – both played standup edge-rushing linebacker/end in a 3-4 defense in college and could thrive playing what should be close to their previous positions. With standup edge players more of a priority than in the Jaguars' previous scheme, drafting another dynamic player there seems possible. If the Jaguars indeed commit to such a move – and how early in the draft they might make the commitment – is one of the tougher Jaguars-centric questions entering the draft.
PROJECTED FIRST-ROUND EDGE DEFENDERS
Kwity Paye, Michigan; Azeez Ojulari, Georgia; Jaelen Phillips, Miami; Joseph Ossai, Texas; Zaven Collins, Tulsa; Jayson Oweh, Penn State; Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest; Gregory Rousseau, Miami.
BROOKS BREAKS DOWN THE CLASS
The 2021 edge defender class is loaded with intriguing prospects but few rock-solid performers. This year's collection of talent features more "boom-or-bust" prospects with limited experience or sack production. As a result, scouts are placing wagers on edge defenders with blue-chip traits (size, speed, length, athleticism and first-step quickness) over technicians. Paye, Rousseau, Ojulari and Oweh fall into that category as freak athletes with upside. Tryon and Phillips are classified as technicians with impressive athletic attributes. Rumph is an under-the-radar prospect with the size, length and skill to pop at the next level.
Carlos "Boogie" Basham, Wake Forest. The fifth-year senior is one of the class' most polished defenders with a refined game that combines outstanding hand skills with explosive athleticism and a non-stop motor. Basham overwhelms opponents with his energy and effort but wins his pass-rush attempts executing choreographed maneuvers and counters at the line of scrimmage. With the Wake Forest standout also displaying heavy hands and stout presence against the run, Basham is a rock-solid player with plug-and-play potential.
Gregory Rousseau, Miami. It is hard to find edge defenders with exceptional athleticism and advanced technical skills. That is why scouts are raving about Phillips as the draft draws closer. The 6-feet-5, 266-pounder clocked a 4.56-second forty-yard dash while also displaying explosive leaping ability with a 36-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-5-inch broad jump. With Phillips' athleticism complemented by a refined set of pass-rush skills, particularly with his hand-to-hand combat maneuvers, the Miami product is a disruptive presence off the corner with double-digit sack potential. If scouts are comfortable with his injury history and reasons for leaving UCLA, the pass-rushing specialist could come off the board as a Top 15 selection.
POSITION RANKING: 10 of 10.
CHANCES JAGUARS TAKE AN EDGE IN ROUND 1
OK, but the need doesn't appear perhaps as great as positions such as safety, defensive tackle or tight end.
EDGE PLAYERS ON THE JAGUARS ROSTER
Josh Allen, K'Lavon Chaisson, Lerentee McCray, Aaron Patrick.
Kiper: "There are some guys coming out that are intriguing. There are some guys who are boom or bust and there are some guys who have shown the capability production-wise and talentwise. There are some intriguing pass rushers who are going to help you."
Brooks: "There's not a [Cleveland Browns defensive end] Myles Garrett. There's not a [Washington Football Team defensive end] Chase Young. There's no one in there like that, but there are a lot of guys with intriguing traits who have the potential to maybe emerge at the next level."